Can You Prevent Sagging Skin?

With many products positioned as the antidote to sagging skin, we asked Dr. Justine Hextall, dermatologist on behalf of The Harley Medical Group, whether these are indeed legit, or literally hope in a jar. And if we can’t reverse the effects of sagging skin, what could be done to prevent it. Read on for her insider knowledge.


Can a cream or serum make any difference?

“The area of the skin where the collagen and elastin are found is in the dermis. These structures keep skin firm, the so-called skin’s scaffolding. As we get older intrinsic ageing and the effects of environment, including UV exposure, stress, pollution and smoking, start to degrade the collagen and elastin. As a consequence, wrinkles develop and skin starts to sag. It makes sense therefore that it would be unlikely that applying a cream would immediately correct this deficit. Although newer technologies allow for deeper penetration of topical preparations I am not aware of any cream that can truly firm skin after a few applications with lasting results. That said, serums and creams with antioxidants can protect skin and mitigate against the free radical damage from the effects of pollution and sun exposure amongst other things. So, in effect they can protect against damage to the skin’s collagen and elastin over time, if used regularly.”

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What products, if any, can fight against sagging?

“Always wear a sun cream even in winter. Remember although there is less UVB around in winter, levels of UVA are still significant. UVA is a longer wavelength that can penetrate through glass. UVA will cause a breakdown in collagen and elastin over time. It is vital therefore to make sure your sun cream not only protects against UVB, but also UVA. There is also a lot of talk now about the damaging effects of even longer wavelengths such as Infrared A and high energy visible light (HEVL) that is emitted by screens. Physical blocks such as zinc oxide, as found in DermaQuest’s SheerZinc SPF30, £41, may be important as they simply work by reflecting light away from skin. There are also sun creams with antioxidants that also help to mitigate against the free radical damage from light exposure.” Try Murad Environmental Shield Essential C Day Moisture SPF 30, £60.

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What lifestyle and diet changes could make a difference?

“Over time we inevitably lose volume in our faces, via fat, muscle and bone changes. A healthy diet with antioxidants, stopping smoking reducing alcohol and stress and wearing an effective sun screen can dramatically reduce these extrinsic ageing factors. Twin studies increasingly show that these external variables can be more important than genetics in how our skin ages.

“Smoking like sun exposure causes free radical damage. This damage causes the up-regulation of enzymes such as MMP-1 that breakdown collagen and elastin. There is increasing evidence now that pollution particularly in conjunction with UV exposure causes skin ageing. Topical and oral antioxidants can help to protect against free radical damage from the above. A diet rich fruit and vegetables will supplement our bodies natural antioxidant defenses. Yellow and orange peppers for example contain carotenoids which are powerful antioxidants, while tomatoes contain lycopene that protect against sun exposure and avocados contain high levels of vitamin E, an important skin antioxidant.”

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What are the latest non-cosmetic ‘lifting’ options?

“I am a believer in maintaining skin health and having a good skincare regime, healthy diet and having intermittent non-surgical interventions such as microneedling. This treatment works by mechanically damaging collagen, thus stimulating the skin to regenerate and repair itself naturally and safely, forming new collagen, creating smoother, brighter, healthier skin. The key is to meet with a skincare specialist and plan a treatment programme, that includes the best possible regime for your skin.”

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Other treatments that focus on stimulating new collagen include laser and radiofrequency facials and Ultherapy, a non-surgical ultrasound treatment that stimulates the production of new collagen and elastin deep within the skin for a lifting effect.

What about the serious surgical interventions?

“Obviously, a surgical facelift will lift skin immediately. However, increasingly people are looking for alternatives with less down time. Consequently, thread lifts are becoming more popular. These threads are placed under the skin. There is a formation of new collagen along the thread which ultimately leads to further tightening of the skin and providing the desired lift.”

From: Harper’s BAZAAR UK